Photo: Liz, Joseph, and Sam look at a pair of bluebirds during 9th-grade biology class.
Spring has officially sprung in the Adirondack Park! While we are still experiencing the unpredictable weather synonymous with April—this past Tuesday we saw rain, hail, and snow falling on our mountain campus—plants are blooming and wild animals are returning after a long winter away. Our 9th-grade biology class celebrated the start of this much-anticipated time of year during an annual lesson on transitions in nature and species identification. The group traveled to several different outdoor spots around campus, binoculars and field guides in hand, to observe some of the wild birds that return to our region each spring. We look forward to the natural world around us continuing to awaken over the coming weeks, to new shoots pushing out of the soil in our garden beds, and bright green leaves unfurling on the trees in our campus woods.
Top: The 5th-grade math class works on their egg-tracking graphs. Middle 1: Ryan works on his egg graph. Middle 2: The 9th-grade biology class goes birding. Middle 3: A field guide for the 9th-grade biology lesson. Middle 4: Visiting author Gae Polisner talks to the student body. Bottom: Mina, Emma, Rosalie, and Kate brainstorm ideas about how to clean up polluted spaces.
This week our place-based lessons connected to both our campus farm, as well as the wild spaces that surround us. In 5th-grade math class, students have been learning about mean, median, mode, and range, and the different ways graphs can be used to represent data. In a lesson looking at the eggs laid by our barnyard chickens, students used data sets from 2020 and 2021 to calculate the average daily egg collection for each month of those years. They then graphed that data with line and bar charts, analyzed the data and found patterns, and reported their findings to Barn Manager Erica. They also inquired as to why about why fewer eggs were laid during winter months (because the flock is spending more energy staying warm) and why fewer eggs were laid in 2021 than 2020 (a predator got into the barnyard and we lost some of our birds). Meanwhile, our oldest students began their Spring Term unit looking at transitions in the natural world with a lesson centered around using field guides and dichotomous keys to identify wildlife, and specifically migratory birds. Throughout their first week out in the field the class spotted eastern bluebirds, robins, woodcocks, pileated woodpeckers, yellow bellied sapsuckers, turkey vultures, and black capped chickadees!
Our entire student body also thought about the changing environment around them during an all-day visit with author Gae Polisner, who has written several of the young adult novels that our students have been reading in class. After discussing her books, career, and writing process, Gae asked students to brainstorm ideas about how to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is the central location in her environmentally-focused book Consider the Octopus. Thank you, Ms. Polisner, for visiting with our students, and for leading this thoughtful conversation about how young people can make positive change in their world.
Top: Luke and Josh work on Smaug the Dragon’s head for The Hobbit. Middle 1: A painted set for The Hobbit. Middle 2: Farm Intern Lilly helps Mina with an art out-time. Middle 3: Riiley paints a barnyard animal. Bottom: Completed barnyard glass paintings.
Set designs are really coming together for our spring theater production of The Hobbit. This week some of our stagecraft students continued to make progress on Smaug the Dragon, which will be one of the most dramatic set pieces of the play with his remotely controlled moving eyes and head and practically manipulated moving body. Others worked diligently on the intricately painted and lush backgrounds that will bring the various environments of Middle Earth to life during the show performances at the end of the term.
Over in the barnyard, more of our talented artists were also working on vibrant paintings this week—these pieces depicting our farm animals. Each portrait highlights a specific animal on our farm, and was created using a technique in which photos are traced onto glass and a background is painted with bright colors. The finished pieces will find homes around the barn, where they will not only beautify our space, but also offer our students and campers the opportunity to see and connect with these animals in a new way.
Top: A Saturday hiking group hikes to Lower Wolfjaw Mountain. Middle: Owen and William on the boulders at Balanced Rocks. Bottom: Owen at the viewpoint on Balanced Rocks.
As part of their Spring Term curriculum, each student in the advanced section of our Outdoor Leadership (ODL) class will plan and lead a weekend trip this term with the help and support of adults from our campus. During a trip this past weekend organized by 8th-grader Zephyr, a group took on the challenge of hiking Lower Wolfjaw Mountain, one of New York State’s 46 peaks that tower above 4,000 feet. Another trip, led by 7th-grader Owen, stayed a bit closer to home. They first headed up one of North Country School and Camp Treetops’ favorite hikes, Balanced Rocks, before heading back to campus and practicing their campfire building and outdoor cooking skills. By leading these trips and not simply participating in them, the students in ODL class are offered the opportunity to acquire important leadership skills, and to think beyond their own personal experience as they consider the wellbeing of those around them.
Top: A Saturday trip group participates in an Earth Day garbage cleanup. Middle: A Saturday trip group visits an animal refuge. Bottom: Jerry takes in the views from an Adirondack chair.
Another group of students also considered the collective good on a Saturday trip recognizing Earth Day. As part of an event organized by the Ausable River Association, the students picked up an impressive ten bags of trash from around the Whiteface Mountain ski area, helping to clean up the Adirondack Park we call home, before visiting some rescued and rehabilitated creatures at a local animal refuge.
FARM AND GARDEN
Top: Edible Schoolyard students weed in the Children’s Garden. Middle 1: Liam and Ezra weed in the Children’s Garden. Middle 2: Roan takes Tucker’s heart rate. Middle 3: Val runs with Tucker. Bottom: Collected data on Tucker’s body temperature, pulse rate, and respiration rate.
Spring on the farm means the arrival of baby animals, the start of seeding in our greenhouses, and weeding out our annual and perennial garden beds. This week students in in one of our Edible Schoolyard elective classes visited the Children’s Garden, where they talked about the perennial herbs that regrow in that space every year by overwintering below the soil surface, and the annual plants that we reseed and plant each spring. They then helped Garden Manager Kim prepare the annual beds for new plants by pulling out the weeds that have already started to arrive with this week’s warmer temperatures.
Meanwhile, over in the barnyard students in our horseback riding elective class continued their learning about horse health and physical fitness in a lesson that got everyone moving. The class first learned how to take horse Tucker’s resting body temperature, pulse rate, and respiration rate, before jogging with him around the barnyard. The class collected his vitals again immediately after running, and one last time after waiting ten minutes, before discussing these numbers in relation to what they’ve been learning about when it comes to caring for horses. By tracking how rest and exercise impact these indicators of health, the class can look at ways a rider can improve an individual animal’s fitness, help them recover from activity in a healthy way, and generally work with the horses in their care.